Some Quick Thoughts on GarageBand for iPad

By  |  Thursday, March 10, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Don’t tell Apple, but I might’ve upgraded to an iPad 2 if GarageBand didn’t work on the original. As a lapsed musician, I’ve been cobbling together iPad music apps since last year, but I could never find the one that did it all — recording, sampling, looping, synthesizing — at least in an affordable package.

So for me, GarageBand was the highlight of Apple’s iPad 2 event. When the $5 app launched in the iOS App Store today, I grabbed it immediately. Here’s what I think so far:

Many apps made obsolete

I feel sorry for the makers of StudioTrack, Virtuoso Piano, Music Studio and countless other apps with similar functionality to GarageBand. Even if these apps offer more features than GarageBand, they’ve been undercut by a $5 app that does all the important stuff. I can’t imagine buying another multi-track recording app or virtual instrument now.

The accelerometer works, except when it doesn’t

One of GarageBand’s neatest tricks is its ability to detect how hard you’re hitting a note based on the iPad’s accelerometer. For the virtual piano, it feels natural, almost like the real thing. But the drums are infuriating. No matter how hard I tapped, or what surface the iPad was on, I couldn’t consistently hit the snare at maximum volume. To make matters worse, you can’t turn the accelerometer off or change the velocity of individual notes after you’ve recorded them.

Guitarists: Keep $99 in the bank

GarageBand accepts guitar input through the iPad’s headphone jack — you just need an 1/8-inch cable and a 1/4-inch adapter for the guitar output — but it’s a worthless feature for now, because you can’t hear what’s going on. Unless I’m missing something, you can’t play audio through the iPad speakers while using the headphone jack for input. Guitarists will have to hold out for the Apogee Jam, a $99 adapter that runs through the iPad’s 30-pin connector. It launches on March 31.

I gotta have that cowbell

No seriously, Apple. Where’s the frickin’ cowbell? (Update: There’s a cowbell in one of the “smart drum” sets, but not in the actual kits that you can play manually.)

It’s still awesome

I’ve got even more nitpicks with GarageBand for iPad. It needs more effects. It could run faster on the iPad 1. There’s this annoying bug where the screen gets out of whack when you load the advanced help menu. But in the end, GarageBand is a self-explanatory music creation tool with great-sounding instruments, multi-track recording and quantization that’ll save even the worst drummers. All I want to do right now is get back to it.



15 Comments For This Post

  1. Mich Says:

    i was able to plug in a guitar using iRig. It worked fine.

  2. JaredNewman Says:

    iRig includes an audio out port, correct?

    I've also been able to record through the Microphone and treat it as a guitar (with the amplifiers and pedals). Not ideal, but it'll do for now.

  3. Mike Says:

    Yes, both iRig and AmpKit Link (similar to iRig) have 1/8" audio out, which can be used for headphones or line-in into something else.

    I plugged my AmpKit Link into GB last night, and it works fine.

  4. @JimKloet Says:

    I played a bit with the Griffin GuitarConnect cable and the iShred LIVE app. It sucked on my iPhone 4 (the phone's mic kept picking up the guitar's feedback and triggering voice control), but rocked on the original iPad. I plugged my 2.1 speakers into the cable, and it sounded great.

  5. Jamie Hardt Says:

    "I feel sorry for the makers of StudioTrack, Virtuoso Piano, Music Studio and countless other apps with similar functionality to GarageBand."

    What Apple has gotta figure out now is how to build a third-party plugin API like Logic and Pro Tools, and sell more instruments and effects with in-app purchasing.

  6. fahad Says:

    its good for guitarest.. 🙂

  7. Justin Says:

    @Jamie Hardt: Garageband on OSX supports plugins so I’d imagine it can’t be too far off

  8. Brett Says:

    Got two words for you………iRig. it's $30, and has a headphone out.
    I'm not sure what that $99 thing is you are talking about is.
    Also, as far as inputting drums and other instruments, the Akai LPK 25
    is a usable option albeit without sensativity control.

    as for Cowbell..Just record it manually, and bounce your tracks down to itunes, and imort them again to garageband for more empty tracks

  9. JaredNewman Says:

    Yeah, I looked at the iRig and the competing product from Griffin after writing this. I read some reviews that were iffy on the audio quality, so I may hold off and see if Apogee's dongle is really any better.

    Unfortunately, I don't own a cowbell.

  10. SteveM Says:

    I've tried three different interfaces with the iPad for my guitar. The best by far is the AmpLink kit. Because it is powered (AAA battery), and the circuitry built in, it essentially eliminates all crosstalk.

  11. Ben Says:

    In theory the best solution would be using the digital 30 pin connector (Guitarjack, Apogee Jam and soon Line6 Mobile In) because of the inherent design workaround/noise that comes with squeezing in an in/out signal through what is supposed to be a headphone out. I also have AmpLink but it is too noisy for me. In a practice device I really want a clean sound to critically assess my technique. Although it is a bargain for sure.

  12. Mycrotf Says:

    Yea, I got the app for my 16gb iPad. I like it's potential. Whipped up a nice latin rhythm track in about 15 minutes, using 8 tracks. It sounded pretty darn good. The bass samples are pretty well down, I especially like the stand-up bass. Now, my only complaint is not having enough memory to really create something like a real song. All in all, makes me want to get MAC workstation now. The app is fine on a 16gb iPad for getting ideas together, but I couldn't use it to do my serious recording, and really, that's not all bad. It's a lot of fun on my lunch hour.

    As for the interfaces for guitar, man, why is it these are so expensive? The cheaper ones don't satisfy me, and by the time I think of buying that $99 one, I'd really think about getting a Line6 IPOD-mini, which was close to the same price. Ah, well, shouldn't have studied electronics a bit more.

  13. Ben Says:

    I also had a pocket pod, I would say it was about as noisy as the AmpKit link, possibly slightly better sounds on the Pod, but with the Iphone/Ipad route you get to take your backing tracks, tab and a tuner (Polytune is great as good as my Boss tu-3) with you as well

  14. John how Says:

    I downloaded the app a couple of days ago and i really think it is great too but do hope apple is listening to users. I really like wailing on the smart guitars in the single note freehand sort of style but the tones available get boring real quick. Why can't we use the smart guitars with the supplied amp list. Now that would be a winner! Also it would be handyto name the tracks either in the left hand trck control box or in the tracks themselves. It looks like this was once a feature because the supplied sample has these but it seems that it was taken out in v1.1, someone correct me if i'm wrong. Anyway, it's a great start!

  15. Mr.dante Says:

    I have an iRig that works whit all my guitar apps but not GarageBand!!! Why does it not work!!